Thank You Mrs. Cathy

In observing this year’s theme for Random Acts of Kindness Week, I will be sharing stories about people who have had an impact on my life. The RAK Foundation encourages us to think about who has shown kindness, walked alongside or offered a helping hand by asking the question, Who’s your one?

Having excluded family members, I asked myself…who has shown up in my life that was a game changer? I made a list this morning and as I practice acts of kindness this week, I will be aware of the impact these beautiful souls have had on me, and sharing each day about one of them.

The first name on my list belongs to my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cathy. I have always been a good student. I’m a first born, and a January girl. Overachieving and pushing myself to excel are traits that are definitely in my nature. The truth is, I didn’t enjoy my first few years in school.

Early on, my teachers just didn’t get me. I was an enigma to them. I already knew how to read when I began kindergarten and that seemed to throw off my teachers. I remember being taken to the big kids’ library as a five year old and being handed books to test my reading abilities. Two teachers and the principal huddled in the corner, watching me. In loud whispers they wondered aloud if I had somehow memorized the stories, hence the random pulling of books off of shelves. I was relieved when they finally believed that I could read. Thereafter I was allowed special library privileges…but I felt like a freak for being singled out and quizzed. I learned in kindergarten to hide what I could do.

My first grade experiences bored me endlessly. The Dick and Jane books were frustrating to me. “See Spot run. Run, Spot, run. Oh, Dick. Oh, Jane. Oh, oh, oh. See Spot run.” Oh brother, I thought. I sat at my desk a lot, drawing and working on other projects. My teacher looked at me often with suspicion, I thought! Another teacher asked me if I was really that smart, or was I cheating somehow. I just stared at her.

I don’t even remember much about the next two grades. The turning point, thankfully, came in fourth grade. My teacher was Mrs. Cathy and thanks to her, I came to appreciate school and look forward to it. Mrs. Cathy had a pleasantly plump figure and short dark hair. She favored cardigans over her dresses and blouses, and sensible shoes. I loved her.

This energetic woman was always smiling or laughing and never shushed her students for laughing out loud either. She made learning interesting and fun, creating games that increased our retention. She allowed kids to learn at the pace that was right for them. Thinking about her this morning, I realized my penchant for creating fun games for myself, something I still practice, was most likely inspired by the brilliant Mrs. Cathy.

The most important thing about Mrs. Cathy was this. She loved everyone. She treated all of her students with warmth and humor and made each boy or girl feel important. I was at a really awkward stage by fourth grade. My hair was growing out, from the last short hairstyle I would ever have. I was in my chubby phase. I was a bookworm, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. And, I was already adept at hiding huge parts of who I was and very cautious about how much I shared.

Mrs. Cathy made me feel like she saw who I really was and she liked me, as I was. She made everyone feel that way. At Christmas time Mrs. Cathy’s desk was covered with small packages from her appreciative and adoring students. I had asked my teacher what she wanted, if she could have anything in the world. With a laugh she replied, “A new car…a blue one!” I bought her a tiny blue car and gave it to her as a Christmas gift. I’m sure I must have bought her something else as well. I’ve forgotten what that gift was. But I will remember forever her peals of delighted laughter when she opened my gift. She wiped tears from her eyes and gave me a tight hug.

I searched the internet this morning, trying to locate my teacher. Sadly, I don’t know what her first name was, and whether she was really Mrs. Cathy or a Miss. She has most likely passed on, as she was in her 40s back in 1967. I could not find any information about her at all. I did locate an alumni group for William McKinley Elementary School in Tulsa Oklahoma, on Facebook. I made a request to join that group. Perhaps I will link up with a former classmate there who can tell me more.

I don’t have a photo of Mrs. Cathy. I don’t need one. I can see her clearly today in my mind, more than 50 years later. She is forever captured in my memories, wearing a dark skirt, white blouse and blue cardigan, head tipped back and eyes squeezed tight as she laughs and gathers a child close in an encouraging embrace.

Alexandra K. Trenfor wrote, “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” Thank you Mrs. Cathy, for being one of my influencers, for changing the way I felt about school, and even how I felt about myself, and for showing me where to look. I’m sending you waves of love and gratitude. I hope you know what a difference you made in my life.

Random Acts of Kindness Week 2018

Yesterday kicked off Random Acts of Kindness Week, for 2018. I have celebrated this awareness raising week for several years now. Each year has a different theme. For 2018 the week is structured around a question. Who’s your one?

Observed every February, Random Acts of Kindness Week, shortened to RAK Week, focuses on uniting people through generating kindness. Led by the RAK Foundation, officially recognized in 2000, this seven day celebration seeks to demonstrate how kindness starts with one…one person, one kind act.

For 2018, in addition to practicing random acts of kindness, the invitation is to share about the one person who has most impacted your life. Who has inspired you to be a better person? It could be a friend or family member who encouraged you, a teacher who saw your potential, a singer whose song changed the course of your life.

During this week, think about who those people are and tell their stories, share a photo, let the world know that that person, those people, have helped to shape your journey. On social media, tag any posts or photos with #RAKWeek2018 and #CaptureKindness.

I will be sharing stories this week, about people who have impacted my life, beginning with tomorrow’s post. Because I post about my family so often…my immediate family members and my larger extended family…I am going to exclude them. In truth, my family, all of my family…Greg, my children, their spouses, my grandchildren, and beyond that circle, grandparents, parents, stepparents, siblings and their families, aunts, uncles, cousins…ALL have had a tremendous impact on my journey, all have contributed in some profound way. I am deeply grateful for each of them.

I will be sharing this week about some others who have made a lasting impression on me, shifted my thinking or walked with me through a difficult time. I’m allowing my heart to open wide, and I am taking note of who appears and what memories stir.

And I am intentional about offering kindness, in myriad small ways. I have ideas popping into my head…tucking encouraging notes into favorite books at the library, taking pet food to the local animal shelter, handing out Valentines to strangers, donating my time to an organization.

I’m excited to see what unfolds this week, and who enters my awareness to write stories about. And I am happy to change my corner of the world, and send ripples of compassion outward into the universe, one act of kindness at a time.

Post a Positive Note Somewhere

Today was Day Two in Random Acts of Kindness Week. The challenge issued for Monday, from the randomactsof.us app, was to post positive notes around my city. My grandson Dayan and I did a similar activity in 2014, writing encouraging notes and placing them on the windshields of random cars parked in a large mall parking lot. Both of us pushed beyong the edges of our comfort zones to carry out that mission, and had a blast. 

I was excited to carry out this activity today, leaving notes in easily accessible locations around Joplin. 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere
Post a Positive Note Somewhere
I used small cream papers and brightly colored pens to create positive notes. Some of my favorites quotes came to mind, inspiring words that I turn to often, and I went with those. 

In a few minutes, I had not one but six notes with positive messages on them, including this one from my favorite author, JRR Tolkien:

Not all who wander are lost. 

I didn’t question the appropriateness of the quote. If it popped into my head, I used it. Part of the fun, and trust, of doing random acts is not knowing the outcome. I don’t know who found the notes or what impact the quotes had on their lives. I don’t need to know. Not knowing the finder’s life circumstances means I let go of what I perceive might happen and let the Divine do the guiding. 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere
This was a fun mission. I didn’t get all of the notes placed today. I’ll finish that task tomorrow, along with carrying out a new activity. 

What happened, though, as I moved through my day, was that my awareness of being kind was heightened. I noticed people. I smiled at and chatted with more strangers. I said “yes” more, gave a donation to Children’s Miracle Network when asked to at the convenience store, helped people from a place of joy and lightness. 

I was more kind today, as I tucked my little notes around town. And that is what Random Acts of Kindness Week is all about. 

Post a Positive Note Somewhere

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On

I love that the moment I woke up this morning, and asked How shall we play today?, an answer was given. I was reminded that today is the beginning of Random Acts of Kindness Week. I had not consciously recalled that fact until I asked the question. 

I first discovered this week long event in 2014, during my Year of Firsts. It has been my practice since, and my joy and privilege, to participate each year. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
What I did differently this year was that I registered on the Random Acts of Kindness website. They have an interactive site with daily challenges and stories and a way to track my actions, for my own benefit. 

I was delighted to see that one of the challenges was to practice self kindness. What a great way to kick off the week. Sunday is normally my self care day. And in the same way that loving myself overflows into loving others, being kind to myself naturally flows into kindness toward another. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
I prepared my simple morning meal…warm lemon water and a fruit smoothie…and had breakfast in bed. Gathering colored pencils and my altered book, I further practiced self kindness by creating another page in my art journal, all from the comfort of my cozy bed, with brilliant sunshine streaming in through the windows. Bliss. Tenderness. Creativity. Kindness. And I was prepared for a week of conscious kindness. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It OnToday’s challenge during Random Acts of Kindness Week. 

I am excited to participate in this week of random kindness. Not all of it will be geared toward strangers. Kindness is appropriate to offer to everyone, including friends and family and animals. However, it is fun to do something kind for someone I don’t know, and remain anonymous in the act. 

It is not a coincidence that Valentine’s Day is celebrated during this week as well. For many people, this is a difficult holiday. Rather than focusing on the lack of a romantic relationship, or a relationship that disappoints or is complicated or is less than desired, how amazing if more people focused on showing kindness, and love, toward others. 

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On
During this chaotic time, in our country and in the world, what if there was less talk and more action? Less divisiveness and more unity? Less hostility and more kindness? Doing acts of kindness without taking credit for it bypasses the ego and lets the heart take the lead. There is no need to keep score, for these genuine acts are not done for the sake of reciprocity, but done to send positive, loving energy out into the world. 

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. 

What a perfect way to make life a little more tender. Won’t you join me this week, in being kind?

www.randomactsof.us

Kindness is Contagious-Pass It On

Day 45: Hand Out Roses on Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day, the day of celebrating love, is not a happy day for everyone. For some it is a painful or lonely holiday. This is also Random Acts of Kindness Week. My desire for today’s first was to combine the two events by handing out roses to people. What happened was that the first became much more intentional, rather than random! It was a sweet experience.

A busy day kept me from doing my first until this evening. By the time I headed out to buy flowers and give them away, the sun was setting and a beautiful full moon was rising. It seemed appropriate, somehow. And it influenced my choice of roses. I had envisioned buying yellow roses, for friendship. What I selected were gorgeous roses as white as the moon that was shining brightly in the velvet sky.

I asked to be guided to people who could use a smile and a reminder that someone cares about them. And the fun began. The first recipient was the cashier at the store where I made my purchase. She admired the roses as I dug in my purse for money. The look on her face as I handed her one, and wished her a Happy Valentine’s Day, was priceless. My focus became people who were working this evening, while others were out on special dates. The girl who handed me my tea at Sonic got a rose as did the young lady behind the counter in McDonalds.

I enjoyed my stroll through this fast food restaurant. McDonald’s isn’t a common destination for Valentine’s dinner. There were four men present, each sitting alone, engrossed in their computers or cell phones. I walked by each one and dropped a rose on their tables, wishing them a happy day. The three older men gave me startled looks, smiled and thanked me. As I walked toward the last guy, a considerably younger man who had been listening to music, he removed his earbuds and looked at me with a hopeful expression. I laughed as I gave him his rose. He beamed.

My last stop was to one of my favorite places in Joplin, Cupcakes by Liz, on Main Street. I knew Liz, Jim and their staff had put in a very long and busy day. I gave my last roses to the ladies working so diligently in the kitchen, baking and boxing up beautiful edible creations. I left feeling really good about making a dozen people smile tonight, and hopefully, feel appreciated. I didn’t leave Cupcakes by Liz empty handed though. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!